Bing is Beautiful – Live at Squamish Time Lapse

On the Labour Day weekend we shot a 56 hour time lapse at the Live at Squamish Music Festival for a TV commercial for Microsoft’s search engine Bing.  It is part of the Bing is Beautiful, and Bing and Decide campaigns.  Look for it during  your favourite regularly scheduled TV program.

We were responsible for shooting the time lapse sequence that runs in the background of the Bing concert commercial, plus a few of the concert shots in the “Photosynth” section of the ad.   More about how the shoot came together

In what turned out to be a fairly epic endeavour, we went from first discussion of licensing This time lapse clip of mine from the Sasquatch Music Festival 2009, to a new shooting concept, to production in less than a week.  Thanks to the organization of the creative geniuses at JWT in New York we were able to co-ordinate my 5 person local team, A Vancouver Producer and assistants, rental gear from the four corners of the continent, co-operation with brand.LIVE the concert promoters in just four days to pull together a grueling 56 hour non-stop shoot.  The two Nikon D3X’s ran continuously from 5:00am on Saturday morning until 1:00pm on Monday, shooting 5 – 24 megapixel frames every 15 seconds.  My on site team checked the cameras constantly to ensure operation, and swapped memory cards every few hours. We had an 8 core 12GB computer system renaming, archiving and backing up files continuously in the “Production RV” (our awesome little VW Euro-van parked on site for the whole festival).  Post production, time lapse assembly, and colour grading was (awesomely) performed by BlueRock in New York (much to my relief, we shot over 113,000 frames at 24MP each!)

Art Buyer Sara Levi and Creative Director Scott Bassen from JWT flew from NY (via Timbuktu I think due to last minute bookings) on Friday to be on-site for the shoot.  Most of us got only a couple of hours sleep the entire weekend, Sara & Scott had to head back out first thing Monday, and the rest of the local crew were aching for their beds after an exhausting but awesome weekend of photography, music, all-nighters and even a bit of fun!

5:00am setting the cameras by the security lights

Techie how we did it stuff….

  • co-ordination with the venue was key, we had to co-operate with the right people to sort out access, camera positions, an on site production location, press access, and parking.
  • We built two scaffold towers each 5 meters high, and anchored them to 1200 kilo concrete blocks with heavy duty tie down straps.  Each tower was surrounded by a 6 foot high fence so that the towers would not be disturbed by the fans.
  • Very heavy duty tripods were then strapped down to the towers.
  • A Nikon D3X was perched on each tripod. Once the camera positions were set, the cameras had to stay in position throughout the shoot.  If we moved them, the frames for the time lapse would not be aligned, causing a nightmare for post production. We had to be prepared for all weather eventualities, September in the Coast Mountains is not always sunny!
  • Each D3X was adorned with a Kendrick Astro Firefly lens heater, and neoprene Camera Cozy to prevent dew from forming on the lens and the cameras during the cold nights.  The cameras were then bagged with a good ol ziploc in case of rain.
  • Each D3X and the Lens Heater was wired to run from one 12 volt deep cycle marine battery that would provide enough power to last throughout the entire shoot without having to change the power source.  The batteries were placed at the bottom of the towers, with long power leads running up the scaffolding.
  • Each camera was also connected to a video out cable that ran down to the bottom of the scaffold and was connected to a 4 inch LCD screen.  This allowed us to monitor the progress of the photography from the ground frequently without having to climb the scaffold and risk shaking the cameras.
  • The Nikons were set using the built in intervalometer to shoot a bracketed sequence of 5 photos every 15 seconds during the day, and every 5 seconds during the evening concerts.
  • During the day when the available light overpowered the stage lighting the camera were set to shoot on aperture priority, but in the evening when the highly varied stage lighting overpowered the dusk we manually adjusted the shutter speeds every few minutes using a third D3X as a chimp meter light meter.  Once the sky was dark the settings were changed to manual to carry on throughout the night.

the two camera positions as seen from the stage

  • All of the images from each of the two camera angles were carefully renamed, archived to a hard drive for the client, and backed up onto a third drive for safekeeping.  One drive was handed to the clients to take back to New York, another was couriered the next day, and a third copy kept on file at my office, just in case.

JWT has created a great concept for Bing.  I love the way the final ad looks, and how prominently it features my beautiful and amazing home town of Squamish, BC Canada.  Great thanks to everyone that made it all come together.

By the way, the Live at Squamish Festival was fantastic, they did everything right.  It was “Happy Times in a Big Field with Great Music” in the mountains.  Hope to see you there next year!